Wednesday, June 12, 2013

French Sorrel and Mint Granita


Taking a look around my garden, I guess I'd have to say I have a light green thumb. I try hard and have a certain amount of success. The roses are blooming. I'm just about to harvest the first Japanese eggplant of the season. The cherry peppers and serrano chiles are flowering. But then there are the tomato and tomatillo plants. Not gonna happen this year, I guess.

One plant that has been my garden star is the French sorrel. This perennial clearly doesn't give a damn about the dastardly clay soil it lives in. I work and work that horrid soil with compost, but the moment I turn my back it immediately compacts to the point that it must squeeze the life out of any roots that try to wend their way through. The sorrel, however, seems to have made its peace with its lousy living conditions and year after year keeps giving me gorgeous sour green leaves. I make pesto with it, sauces, salads--and, this week, granita.


Granitas are one of those go-to dishes in the spring and summer because they pack so much flavor into an icy refreshing form--and are so ridiculously easy to make. Too intimidated to make ice cream (which you shouldn't be)? Opt for the granita. You just make a simple syrup with two parts water to one part granulated sugar. Add your flavor--be it fresh berries or vanilla or coffee or something else you come up with. Puree it in a blender. Then pour the mixture into a casserole dish or baking sheet and put in the freezer. Every couple of hours, scrape it up with a fork and refreeze until you have frozen little granules of flavor.

So, when I saw all those sorrel leaves begging to be harvested, and a pot full of chocolate mint, I thought granita.


Now the issue with sorrel granita is that you want the leaf color to stay vibrant. So you have to let the syrup cool down before blending. I took advantage of that by adding sprigs of the mint to the hot syrup to pull the oils and resulting flavor from the mint, then I removed them when the mixture was blended.


The granita has a grassy, tangy flavor, punctuated by undertones of chocolate mint. I enjoyed it on its own but plan to serve it as part of a savory dish--think cold poached salmon--or dessert, with lemon cake. It's truly refreshing and something a bit unusual for a dinner party.

French Sorrel and Mint Granita
Makes 1 quart
(printable recipe)

2 cups cold water
1 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 sprigs or more of fresh mint
2 cups fresh French sorrel leaves

1. Combine the water, sugar, and half the lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and transfer to a glass container. Add the mint and let cool to remove temperature.
2. Wash the sorrel leaves, remove the tough spine, and coarsely chop the leaves. You'll want two well-packed cups.
3. When the sugar syrup has cooled, remove the mint and discard. Add the syrup, the rest of the lemon juice, and the sorrel leaves to the bowl of a blender. Puree until smooth.
4. Pour the mixture into a large shallow pan or casserole dish. Freeze until icy--about 3 hours. Then using a fork, scrape through the mixture to break it up. Refreeze another 2 hours and repeat. Do this once more and it should be ready to serve. You can store it in a container for up to a month.

Here's the granita after a couple of scrapings. It's ready.



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